A parent's guide to PlayStation

How to get into gaming, stay safe, and have fun. By writer, comedian and TV presenter Ellie Gibson.

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Hello there

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Hello there

As a mum of two, I know that parenting can often feel like an endless series of questions. Are they eating enough veg? Should they get more exercise? How can it take a human being that long to put on a pair of shoes?

Then there’s the issue of what our children do with their spare time. It’s tempting to fill up the hours with swimming lessons, ballet classes, football, and so on - and all those things are great - but kids need downtime too, just like the rest of us.

Now, no one wants to see their child stuck in front of a screen all day and it’s important the games kids do play are right for their age. All the same, our children are growing up in a digital era and video games are a great way to explore it.

Ultimately, it’s about moderation. In the same way ice cream is a great occasional treat, video games – along with all that good stuff like reading, playing outdoors, and making weird space rockets out of egg boxes – can form a key part of a balanced, healthy entertainment diet.

Games have moved on a bit since we were kids, though, so this Parent’s Guide is designed to explain how things work today.

The good news is this: it’s easier than ever to make sure your children safe online and enjoying the right kind of games. It’s not just about better graphics, either. These days, games offer a much wider range of experiences, placing more emphasis on creativity and exploration than hyper-realism or high scores.

The bit that really matters, though: games are fun. And they’re not just for kids - games are a brilliant way to come together as a family, share experiences, and have a laugh. So why not give it a go?


Bang for your buck

When it comes to working out the cost-per-hour of family entertainment, PlayStation offers fantastic value. The fact is that games consoles aren’t cheap. However, this isn’t one of those toys that will be gathering dust on Boxing Day and in the bin by Easter; it’s a purchase the whole family will get enjoyment from for years.

There are loads of games available at different price points and, for £49.99 a year, you can get two titles every month as a PlayStation Plus member.

The average cost of a cinema ticket has risen by nearly 50% in the last ten years. Throw in the cost of popcorn and parking, and a family trip to the movies can cost up to £100, according to The Telegraph. Alternatively, for less than three family visits to the cinema you can pick up a PS4 bundle and create an entertainment hub in your own home that will provide entertainment for years to come.

*Two PS4 Titles Every Month as a PlayStation Plus Member 


Thrills and skills

Learning how to play is an important part of growing up. Games can teach us about creating and competing, too. There’s no point pretending that playing video games will make your child a genius - let’s be honest, it probably won’t even help them with their times tables.

That said, games can teach us about working as a team or being a good loser and many of them encourage players to use their imaginations to create brand new worlds and characters. What’s more, they send an important message: that you can get better at something through effort, practice and patience.

Games aren’t all about guns and cars: they’re often incredibly artistic both in their storytelling and design; there is even a BAFTA Games Awards ceremony.

Formula 3 driving champion Jann Mardenborough started playing racing games like Gran Turismo series when he was seven years old. He went on to win GT Academy – a PlayStation-sponsored competition to find the best up and coming race drivers – and become a professional racing driver. Of course, we can’t all become real-life champions just by playing video games - but we can have fun trying...

Now that computer programming is part of the national curriculum, children as young as five are learning how to code. PlayStation helps fund Digital Schoolhouse, an initiative designed to improve IT teaching and inspire kids.


Playing it safe

Parental controls make it easy to keep an eye on what your children are playing and who they’re playing with. Video game companies want to keep your kids safe, just like you do – many of the people working in today’s industry are parents themselves and share the same anxieties about their children’s well-being that you and I do. To that end, PS4’s parental control settings are designed to be as simple as possible to use.

Using parental controls on PS4 you can:

  • Restrict access to games and movies based on their age rating or certification.
  • Block access to unsuitable websites - or even disable the Internet browser altogether.
  • Disable text and voice messaging to prevent you kids from chatting to anyone online.
  • Set up a sub-account for your child to control what they’re able to buy on PlayStation Store – either by disabling spending all together, or setting a monthly limit.

PEGI Ratings

Age ratings are just as important for games as they are for films. If you wouldn’t let your child watch an 18-rated movie, they shouldn’t be playing an 18-rated game.

  • Suitable for ages 3 and over. Over 60 titles available on PS4.

  • Suitable for ages 7 and over. Over 100 titles available on PS4.

  • Suitable for ages 12 and over. Over 180 titles available on PS4.


Good times

Gaming is a great way to have fun as a family, whether you’re competing against each other, working as a team, or just laughing at the grown-ups for being so rubbish.

Thanks to Instagram, it’s easy to feel like you’re not a proper parent unless you’re spending hours weaving dreamcatchers from foraged drift wood, or baking rainbow cakes that would make Mary Berry weep. Kids aren’t always up for that, though - and let’s be honest, neither are we. Playing video games is a great way to spend time together doing something they really enjoy - you might even have fun, too.

Take your pick

From racing and football to dancing and LEGO dinosaurs, there are loads of games that are perfect for playing together in the living room. Many allow up to four people to join in, playing either co-operatively or against each other. If you can’t get together in person, there’re also plenty of games that allow you to play and chat together online, with parental controls keeping things nice and safe.

Some of our favourite family friendly titles include: FIFA 17, Pro Evolution Soccer 17, Rocket League, NBA 2K17, Overwatch, Minecraft, Terraria, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, LEGO Jurassic World, LEGO Dimensions, Ratchet & Clank, Tearaway Unfolded, LittleBigPlanet 3 and Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.


Movies, music and more…

Whatever kind of entertainment you’re into, PS4 has something to offer. Why should kids have all the fun? Once they’re tucked up in bed, release the stresses of the day with a quick match on the latest FIFA game or some escapism with the Uncharted series.

PS4 also has a wide selection of movies, music, and TV shows to buy or stream – including apps for services you might already use, like Netflix or Spotify. Watch out for PlayStation VR too – I mean, who wouldn’t want to be lost in a virtual world instead of surrounded by old nappies and half-eaten fish fingers?

  • Access loads of ace entertainment apps, including Spotify, Amazon Prime, Sky, WWE Network and BBC iPlayer
  • Choose from millions of hours’ worth of TV, film and music content.
  • PS4’s brilliant Suspend/Resume feature lets you pause your game to watch TV, switching between them.
  • Pretend you live on the Starship Enterprise by issuing voice commands to search your library and launch games.